Ethiopia’s Ambo city: ‘From freedom to repression under Abiy Ahmed’
By Bekele Atoma
Under Ethiopian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed, the city of Ambo has turned from being a symbol of freedom into a symbol of repression, as the security forces try to curb the growth of ethnically inspired rebel and opposition groups that threaten his “coming together” vision.
(bbc)—Ambo, which has a large student population because of its university, was at the centre of mass protests that saw Mr Abiy rise to power in April 2018 with a promise to end decades of authoritarian rule in a nation with more than 100 million people belonging to at least 80 ethnic groups.
But a year later, there are few signs of development in Ambo, which is about 100km (60 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa. Instead, residents are once again complaining of a return of police brutality, with young men being randomly beaten up or detained as they go about their daily lives.
‘I was lucky’
I witnessed some of this during a visit to Ambo.
In one instance about six policemen forced two young men to kneel in front of pedestrians, before kicking them and hitting them with sticks.
In another instance, two young men were forcibly taken to a police station. Their elbows were tied behind their backs. One of them pleaded, in vain, with the officers to untie him.
No-one dared to intervene for fear that the police would assault them too.
Key facts: Abiy Ahmed
Bornto a Muslim father and a Christian mother on 15 August 1976
Joinedthe armed struggle against the Marxist Derg regime in 1990
Servedas a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda in 1995
Enteredpolitics in 2010
Becameprime minister in 2018
Wonthe Nobel Peace Prize in 2019
Mr Jawar has joined the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), which has formed an alliance with the OLF and the Oromo National Party (ONP) to contest the election on what is expected to be a strong ethno-nationalist ticket.
In Oromia, it is likely to pose the biggest electoral challenge to Mr Abiy’s PP, which was launched in December after a merger of eight of the nine regional parties which make up Ethiopia’s ruling coalition.
Mr Abiy hopes that the PP will foster national unity and keep ethnic nationalism in check.
But he has taken a huge risk as the mass protests that propelled him to power were not just about political freedom – but also about the right of each group to express their ethnic identities more freely and to have greater autonomy for their regions.
So, as far as ethno-nationalists in Ambo and elsewhere in Oromia are concerned, Mr Abiy has sold out.
Worrying for the Nobel laureate, Defence Minister Lemma Megersa, a fellow Oromo with political clout, also expressed doubts about the PP’s formation in November, though party officials say he and Mr Abiy have been ironing out their differences since then.
“The merger is not right and timely, as we are in transition, we are on borrowed time. Dissolving the regional party to which the public entrusted their demands is betraying them,” Mr Lemma said at the time.
For Mr Abiy’s supporters, he offers the best hope of getting Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups to work together, and avoid the country’s disintegration.
They are confident that he will demonstrate his popularity by leading the PP to victory in the election, though its legitimacy is bound to be questioned if the crackdown in Ambo continues.
The protest of Ambo student against Ethiopia regime right now. pic.twitter.com/kOb3j1yHMs
— Abdelaa Huseen❤💚❤✊ (@Falmata02779124) February 5, 2021